In the early 1970s, when video poker was introduced and was still struggling for acceptance, the machines were usually referred to as "poker slots." And video poker has a lot in common with slot machines. They are easy to use, requiring no interaction with a dealer or with other players. Card combinations, like slot reels, are governed by a random-number generator.
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As you have learned in the first chapter, one of the main reasons for the popularity of video poker is it usually has a considerably higher payback than slot machines. In fact some games return more than 100 percent for a skilled player. Regardless of which video poker game you play, achieving the long term return percentage is dependent on getting your fair share of royal flushes. By a royal flush I mean the royal flush that really counts – the natural royal flush that is formed without the aid of a wild card. These generally pay 4,000 credits for a five-credit bet or 800 for 1.
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Each VP variety and paytable has its own strategy. The strategy for Jacks or Better is different from that for Deuces Wild, and within each style of machine, each paytable can have its own strategy. Learning all those strategies is tedious, so I recommend you figure out which video poker game you like best, and then learn the strategy for it. If you get bored with that game then you can learn another strategy at that time. For now, let's start out with an lesson on Full-Pay Jacks or Better. I chose this game because:
While sometimes it may look tempting to draw to a straight or just try your luck with 5 entirely new cards, the answer is almost always to keep the low pair. The general exception to this rule is when you have 4 cards to a flush, straight flush, or a royal straight flush. In these cases you always want to draw to the flush or straight flush because your odds of getting at least the flush are very good and the payout is so much higher. If you can remember this one single strategy, you will be in better shape than many players.
One nice thing about video poker is you can know the return of the machine even before you start playing. On a typical video poker game, the casino's average profit on each play is about 3%. That's called the house edge. The return is the part that's returned to the player. So if the casino gets 3% of all money bet, the players get back 97% of all money bet. The return on a video poker machine is determined by the paytable. Just compare the paytable to the list at Wizard of Odds and you'll see that, for example, the Jacks or Better paytable above means that the return on that machine is 99.54%. If the paytable showed only 8 coins for the full house and only 5 for the flush, it would be a 97.3% machine.
The minimum paying hand is the poker hand that players will have to achieve to be eligible to claim a payout. It differs from one game to another depending on the rules of the game as well as the other features. For example, if a game has a wild card or cards, it will have a higher minimum paying hand, which could be as high as 3 of a kind. This means that if players do not get a three of a kind, they will not qualify for a win. For a Jacks or Better, the minimum hand is a pair of Jacks. For Tens or Better, it is a pair of Jacks, but most games that do not have extra features, the minimum hand is a pair of Jacks.
So far you have learned how video poker started and grew. You have learned the basics of video poker play including return, house edge, and variance. You have learned how randomness actually works. You have also learned about several categories of video poker games that are available today. Plus you now know some methods of determining how large a bankroll you will need to play your video poker game of choice.
4. Play Deuces Wild and turn the tables – While Jacks or Better may be the most common video poker game, players can actually gain nearly a 1 percent edge on a full pay Deuces Wild machine. Look for games that pay 9 coins for a straight flush and 5 for four of a kind. Play perfect Basic Strategy and suddenly you’re in the driver’s seat. A variation is an 11/4 machine, also a nice option for good players — with a miniscule house edge of only .004 percent.